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Marco Rubio: My gun a "last line of defense" against ISIS

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio talked about what was behind his decision to purchase a firearm on Christmas Eve, saying in an interview on "Face the Nation" that a gun is the "last line of defense" between the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and his family.

"I'm a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. I have a right to protect my family if someone were to come after us. In fact, if ISIS were to visit us, or our communities, at any moment, the last line of defense between ISIS and my family is the ability that I have to protect my family from them, or from a criminal, or anyone else who seeks to do us harm. Millions of Americans feel that way," Rubio said.

He suggested that President Obama is underplaying the threat posed by the group. In his State of the Union address last week, the president called the group "masses of fighters on the back of pickup trucks" that "do not threaten our national existence."

"Over-the-top claims that this is World War III just play into their hands," the president said. "Face the Nation" moderator John Dickerson asked whether that was true.

"I think playing into their hands would be to ignore the reality of what ISIS has become. ISIS is not just some group of radicals on the back of pickup trucks. This is a group that's grown in both influence and sophistication," Rubio said. "Can we defeat them? Absolutely. But only if we have a real war against them, which is to find them and destroy them. And if you capture any of them alive, send them to Guantanamo and find out everything they know."

In particular, Rubio has argued that ISIS has changed the immigration debate because they pose a different kind of threat than terror groups like al Qaeda did in the past.

"We've never had a group like ISIS that has an in-depth understanding of foreign immigration practices," he said. "For example, we know that one of the killers in San Bernardino entered the U.S. on a fiance visa, something that most Americans didn't even know existed. And that process broke down. We didn't have the refugee crisis that we're now facing. We've always had terrorist groups. But even Al Qaeda and the other groups that are out there are regionally based. They strike at America as they have in the past on different occasions. But their focus was primarily on the Middle East," Rubio said.

ISIS was not the only issue where Rubio criticized the president in the interview. He had harsh words about the news that the U.S. had secured the release of four Americans detained in Iran in exchange for pardoning or dropping charges against seven Iranians accused or convicted of violating U.S. sanctions.

"The president has pardoned them in exchange for a release of hostages which had done nothing wrong, and it proves once again that now nations and enemies of America around the world know there's a price for Americans," Rubio said. "If you take an American hostage, Barack Obama will cut a deal with you, whether it's Bergdahl, what he did with the Castro brothers, and now what he's done with Iran."

Rubio said he was "happy" the Americans were coming home, but reiterated, "they never should have been held prisoner in the first place."

He also pushed back against the administration's claims that it was able to easily secure the release of 10 sailors detained in the Persian Gulf because it already had diplomatic channels open with Iran around the nuclear deal.

"Imagine if those sailors had wandered into Israeli waters or Egyptian waters, we never would have heard about it because there wouldn't have been a thing going on there," Rubio said, arguing that Iran gained "a huge propaganda score" by forcing the men to apologize on video and sit with their hands behind their heads.

"They released them, but only after achieving what they wanted from it. And that is to prove that if they wanted to, they can grab American sailors and subject them to this treatment," he said.

On the subject of the 2016 Republican primary, Rubio argued he is the "only one in the primary field" that can unite the GOP and attract new voters.

"I believe I am best positioned to take our principles of conservatism and convince people that haven't voted for us in a quarter century that we're a better choice than the other party," Rubio said. Plus, he said Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton does not want to run against him.

"I cannot wait to run against her," he said.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.